The Book as Instrument: Stéphane Mallarmé, the Artist's Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture

Anna Sigrídur Arnar

The University of Chicago Press

2012 Robert Motherwell Book Award Winner


The Book as Instrument examines the French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé's engagement with the material and cultural dimension of the book. Arnar deftly illuminates Mallarmé's role in the transformation of book culture and printmaking, providing a new, and expanded understanding of his significant contributions.


Arnar's analysis corrects the prevailing view of Mallarmé as an indifferent, elite artist whose work was inaccessible to a general public. Through her adroit study of the artist's relations to developments in printing technology, illustration, the rise of mass media, and the political context of the Third Republic, Arnar illustrates Mallarmé's progressive aspirations. She shows how Mallarmé, through his profound rethinking of the book as a physical object, used the book itself as a tool to engage and empower a broad public.


Anna Sigrídur Arnar is a professor of art history at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Her writing has been featured in a number of journals, books and exhibition catalogues, and has previously been acknowledged with the Max Nänny Prize for Best Article in The Word and Image Studios 2008.